QPR may count cost of reckless ambition

Queens Park Rangers are in trouble. On a run of one win in sixteen games, the home win over basement club Wigan Athletic being the solitary victory by the side of Mark Hughes’ name since he took the Loftus Road post, opened up by the reactionary sacking of Neil Warnock. A 2-1 defeat at rivals Bolton Wanderers the latest result of a horrific run of just seven points gained in four months that sees them ingrained in the relegation zone, fighting for their lives as disaster threatens to consume them.

Many media outlets are predicting that the situation awaiting the London club if they slip back into the Championship will be far in excess of any regular club, for QPR’s promotion was not an ordinary promotion. Coming on the back of the turbulent motor-racing mogul ownership of the Flavio Braitore and Bernie Ecclestone axis that was so candidly laid bare in the recent “Four Year Plan” documentary, elevation to the top tier coincided with fresh investment into the club. Alongside the remaining minority shareholding of the Mittal family, out went Briatore and Ecclestone and in came Malaysian Airline tycoon Tony Fernandes.

The brochure for the forthcoming campaign looked impressive, here was a club shorn of Premier League football for sixteen years, powered by fresh investment in tandem with the boardroom and managerial stability, blighted by ten managers in the space of three years under Briatore, they had searched for so long. Neil Warnock, a battle-heartened manager with Premier League previous, had stampeded QPR to the Championship title, losing just six matches and with a solid base in-tact, the prospect of new found Malaysian money sounded very attractive.

Warnock set about installing the golden characteristic that everybody looks for upon reaching the Promised Land, that of “Premier League experience”, it is vital to the goal of staying up they say. So why not, he had the money to do it. In came a total of thirteen players, including Sunderland’s Anton Ferdinand, Arsenal’s Armand Traore, Aston Villa’s Luke Young, Jay Bothroyd was signed on a free after a prolific season with Cardiff, Shaun Wright-Phillips was rescued from the scrapheap at Manchester City and even Newcastle’s high maintenance midfielder Joey Barton had tapped into the bright plan, signing on a  free. QPR appeared to have boxed-clever with their arrivals, a number of players who had been situated within the top tier, to add to a nucleus of an already successful squad, for a non-significant outlay, Wright-Phillips was their “marquee” signing on a paltry £3.9 million.

Out of the other door however, exited eighteen players in what was in essence, a dramatic squad overhaul, highlighted by the fact that only four players survived from QPR’s final match in the promotion winning campaign, a 1-2 home defeat to Leeds, to play the opening fixture of this season, the 0-4 home defeat to Bolton. Such instability didn’t take long to take effect. They started off well enough, of their current 22 point tally, 12 were garnered in the opening ten games, including a home win over Chelsea. However, the results quickly fell away, two winless months passed between November and January, and so did the football, Fernandes seeing fit to vox-popular fan opinion on Warnock leading to his eventual sacking and appointment of Hughes, after a dismal 1-2 home defeat to Norwich, a side who had gone up with QPR in the summer.

 Fast forward eight matches, the duration of Hughes’ stewardship, and things don’t look any brighter. Only a further five points have been taken, drawing them into a six team relegation battle with murmurs that as a result of the summer’s scatter-gun transfer policy, the club will hit troubled financial times if they return to the second tier. According to the Mirror, the wage bill was drummed so high that the accounts may implode if they have to settle for Championship football. Joey Barton is sitting on £80,000 a week according to the media while Nedum Onouha, a January signing from Manchester City, is rumoured to be on £60,000.

 When QPR did splash out or transfers in January, bringing in strike-duo Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse for a total of £9 million to pull them away from any trouble, Zamora was believed to have signed a £90,000 a week deal to lure him away from Fulham. In keeping with modern football’s fashion for gigantic wage bills against any crux of business logic, they have also, reportedly, failed to insert any relegation clauses into playing contracts as Fernandes desperately panicked to reputed personnel in the face of impending adversity, raising the likelihood of £80k a week players in the second tier, a replication of Newcastle’s financial storm of 2009 when they became the last club to gamble with the wage bill so grotesquely against an unexpected relegation.

Of course, Fernandes will do well to look at the examples set by 11th placed Swansea and 12th placed Norwich who sit comfortably away from any threat of relegation after a summer of astute business, acquiring a nucleus of young, ambitious players from lower leagues who will perform well alongside simultaneously pleasing the bank balance. But of course, it’s looking too late for that now as the arms of the Football League look set to grasp QPR and drag them back into the possible financial peril that had nearly sent them into oblivion in the era pre-Briatore. Only one situation tends to occur when a wealthy, naïve owner marries a new, ambitious club and when it is done wrongly, it isn’t pretty and the club usually ends up paying for it, in more ways than one. The rollercoaster ride of the Four Your Plan shows no sign of stopping for QPR.

Written by Adam Gray; @AdamGray1250